YouTube finally bans videos falsely claiming U.S. voter fraud

The phrase "better late than never" is probably being too generous here.

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Five weeks after Joe Biden undisputedly won the U.S. Presidential election by a handy margin for both the Electoral College and popular votes, YouTube is finally realized allowing the spread of dangerous, democracy-eroding misinformation is as solid a line as any to draw in the sand. According to Reuters, the company announced today that it would begin removing videos promoting conspiracies and straight-up lies claiming voter fraud influenced the outcome of the election in any way. "Good on them..." is what we would say if the course correction was timely or actually adequate to deal with the situation.

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Crackdowns starting today for new content — "Yesterday was the safe harbor deadline for the U.S. Presidential election and enough states have certified their election results to determine a President-elect," reads a blog post published today by YouTube. "Given that, we will start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, in line with our approach towards historical U.S. Presidential elections."

YouTube also says since September it has shut down more than 8,000 channels — collectively hosting thousands of videos related to false election information — that violate its existing policies. Now that the election has passed its legally mandated "safe harbor deadline," however, the site will move to more aggressively moderate newer content and future uploads.

Past videos don't necessarily meet takedown criteria — In spite of all this, YouTube hasn't indicated it will remove certain past uploads peddling similar incorrect information, arguing that "controversial views on the outcome or process of counting votes of a current election" were permissible while election officials finalized counts. "As always, news coverage and commentary on these issues can remain on our site if there’s sufficient education, documentary, scientific or artistic context," the company added.

At this point, however, YouTube choosing the "safe harbor deadline" as its marker for censoring false claims regarding 2020 election integrity borders on the absurd. The results of the U.S. Presidential election have been written in metaphorical stone for weeks now, with every legitimate and reputable news agency confirming as much.

Despite attempts to halt their spread, videos purporting all kinds of batshit conspiracy theories and misinformation ran freely on YouTube for months leading up to November 3. Even then, bad faith actors figured out numerous workarounds to evade moderators, so despite YouTube's avowal to put the kibosh on the idea that Joe Biden's election win is in any way illegitimate (or that COVID-19 vaccines are bullshit) we're gonna go ahead and say that it'll do little to put that genie back in the bottle.

Perhaps a more enthusiastic and pro-active approach is needed for 2024.